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Organizations Sign On - Support H.R. 2617

 

Great news!

The Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act is back! Last month, Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Judy Chu (D-CA) reintroduced the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act (H.R. 2617). H.R. 2617 is nearly identical to the original PPSAE (H.R. 5894) and has only minor improvements. H.R. 2617 is comprehensive legislation designed to improve high school graduation rates and access to postsecondary educational and career opportunities for pregnant and parenting students. The National Women’s Law Center and Healthy Teen Network, co-chairs of NCWGE’s Task Force on Pregnant and Parenting Students, worked closely with Representatives Polis and Chu on the development of this legislation.

For more detailed information, click here to see a fact sheet and here for the legislative text. To sign our letter of support, read the letter below and complete the blanks that follow. Please also distribute this letter widely. Thank you!

For additional information about this legislation or letter of support, please contact Lara Kaufmann of the National Women’s Law Center at lkaufmann@nwlc.org, or Shelby Emmett of Healthy Teen Network at shelby@healthyteennetwork.org.

 

Support the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act (H.R. 2617)

August 15, 2011

The Honorable Jared Polis and the Honorable Judy Chu
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington DC 20515

             Re:  Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act (H.R. 2617)

Dear Representatives Polis and Chu:

The undersigned organizations, which share a strong interest in and commitment to civil rights and ensuring the educational success and well-being of children, youth and families, offer our wholehearted support for the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act (H.R. 2617).  Your legislation will help states and local school districts across the nation to establish and fund policies and practices that are supportive of pregnant and parenting youth, so they can stay in school and graduate college or be career ready. 

For the first time in over a decade, teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. have increased. Every year in this country, there are approximately 750,000 teen pregnancies and 400,000 teen births. Overall, nearly three in ten girls get pregnant at least once before age 20, and the rates are much higher for girls of color.  Pregnancy and parenting responsibilities significantly increase a student’s risk of dropping out of school: only half of teen mothers get their high school diploma by age 22, compared to 89 percent of their childless peers. In a nationwide survey of dropout youth, close to one-half of all female dropouts and one-third of male dropouts said that becoming a parent played a role in their decisions to leave school.

These alarming statistics stem from the many barriers that pregnant and parenting teens face in enrolling, attending, and succeeding in school, such as: discrimination by their schools in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, including the failure of states, school districts, and schools to excuse students for pregnancy- and childbirth-related absences or to assist them in maintaining academic progress; the challenge of juggling schoolwork with parenting responsibilities; and the lack of access to affordable, high-quality child care, transportation, and other critical services.

The dropout crisis experienced by this group of students has severe short- and long-term consequences for the economic success and well-being of their families and communities, as well as our nation.  Female dropouts are especially likely to be unemployed, to earn low wages if they do get jobs, and – as a result – to have to rely on public support programs.  Because the children of dropouts are more likely to drop out of school themselves, providing pregnant and parenting students with the supports they need to stay in school is a critical component to any serious effort to address poverty.

And with the proper resources, this can be done. At least a few school districts are undertaking effective efforts to engage and re-engage pregnant and parenting students by implementing voluntary programs that provide academic and support services, which result in students’ academic success. Providing supports for pregnant and parenting students can go a long way toward improving high school graduation rates, especially because pregnant and parenting students often are highly motivated.  In the same nationwide survey of dropout youth referenced above, those who left school to care for a family member or because they became a parent were more likely than any other group of dropouts to say they would have worked harder if their schools had demanded more of them and provided the necessary support.

The Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act will authorize the Secretary of Education to establish a formula grant program to State educational agencies, with competitive subgrants from States to local educational agencies (LEAs) to promote the educational success of pregnant and parenting students. States can use these funds for policy development and training and technical assistance to LEAs.  LEAs can use their funds for policy development, training, strategic partnerships with public agencies and service providers in the community, and direct services to pregnant and parenting students, such as academic counseling, case management, child care and transportation assistance, health and social service referrals, and parenting and life skills education. The Secretary of Education will collect and report data annually on pregnant and parenting students, including their graduation rates, and will conduct a rigorous evaluation of the programs funded by the Act.  The legislation will authorize $100 million for this program for FY 2012 and such sums as may be necessary from FY 2013 through FY 2016.

Representatives Polis and Chu, thank you for your leadership in working to improve the educational outcomes and financial security of pregnant and parenting students – and, by extension, their children. We encourage other Members of Congress to join in this important effort. 

We look forward to the enactment of the provisions of the Pregnant and Parenting Students’ Access to Education Act, and further urge Congress to include the bill’s provisions as part of the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  It is critical that Congress take steps in the ESEA reauthorization to provide support for this particularly at-risk group of students.

Signed,


 

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